"Baby" tarpon in the lagoons - AWESOME!!! [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: "Baby" tarpon in the lagoons - AWESOME!!!

04-02-2006, 10:48 PM
Just got back from being husband / companion on my wife's award trip to St.Kitts for being a top performer in her region. We had our share of challenges getting to the frozen drinks and beach due to a serious acute allergic reaction she suffered that had her going into anaphylactic shock before I rushed her into the emergency ward in a remote hospital. Scary experience to say the least, makes one appreciate the medical care we enjoy here in the states. She's doing fine now, thanks to all who have sent well wishes.

As we eased into things like dinner at Turtle Beach (highly recommended) and made the big company formal bash, I felt comfortable enough to sneak off this morning for what amounted to a little over two hours of stalking the lagoons in the area for baby tarpon.

In this short time I jumped 11 tarpon of which I landed only two. I should have landed more than that but every possible thing that could go wrong while a 5-pc 8wt is bent to the cork did go wrong. However I had twice as many takes as hookups, and 11 fish hooked solid with one fish in the 40 pound class in the areas largest and deepest lagoon. Of course I had a snowball's chance in hell of stopping that fish and as soon as I tried to show a little authority he voided any such hopes by snapping 30# tippet (the biggest I had).

It looked like that video clip on the other thread, fish after fish on for the first 8 fish then finally one to hand, then the 11th to hand making for pretty low percentages.

I would say bring a 10wt at least, and use as big a tippet strength as the fish will allow. I am embarassed to say I started off with the 15# maxima I had on the leader at the time once I spotted the telltale tarpon finning / tail action on calm water instead of cutting it back. That fish exploded on the fly on the second cast and the fight lasted until the fourth tooth-grinding leap before the fine saw teeth on the jaw made a joke out of the tippet. After a second fish was lost I cut back the leader to what looked like 25# (tapered leader) until I cut back to a section thicker than the 30# maxima I had in possession and blood knotted a length of 30# to see if I could start holding them.

My break off problems ended with the 30# provided I replaced the tippet after each jumped fish however at one point a group came through and I hooked one in a consecutive cast after jumping another which threw the hook 5 feet over the water, and of course that one sawed the already badly abraded tippet easily.

All but one or two were sight fished. The blind ones came from where finning fish were seen but didn't stay up so I cast in the general direction. It's amazing how little ripple tarpon of 20-30 pounds can make when just under the surface film.

I noticed certain patterns in their behaviour and capitalized on it which resulted in the high number of hookups, however better fly designs and more anal tippet management would yield more fish to hand should I ever get this type of opportunity again.

Bowing the rod didn't cure the spitting of hooks or breaking off primarily because these fish are so close to the edge sometimes that you are hooking them with 10 feet of fly line out. This is where a boat would be a great advantage because you could get more distance between you and the fish and let the length of line cushion things better than having a short tight leash whiplashing under the force of an airborne silver torpedo and point blank.

But it was so much fun who could stop!! I had to climb two 15ft barbwire fences to keep a promise that I would eat breakfast with my wife on the beachside patio at 8am and I made it damn it! However this short time I had with these poons' was a great ending to an emotionally trying and exhausting trip for my wife and I.

She was glad I hooked up because she felt her illness had ruined my trip. Au contraire, this was her award trip not mine and my job was to be the chaperone and friend, and as it turned out a bit of an EMT as well. "Glad to be of service, I am honored to have the job" I assured her, and meant it. She also "hooked up" with some of the top brass of the company who made a special effort to recognize her efforts and also to wish her well not to mention the support of her great friends who I can gladly say are now my friends as well.

But yes, it sure did feel good to end it with a flurry of screaming drag and leaping silver before breakfast and packing and the cattle drive back to the airport and the long flight back to Logan.

St.Kitts Tarpon Club is now officially formed... thanks for inspiring me to bring some gear steelboneguy!

(BTW - I have some video footage of other fish that I will convert to web media, cruising, leaping etc)

04-03-2006, 12:13 AM
Awesome dude!

Glad to hear your wife is ok - that must have been very scary!

This sounds like a cool place to visit. We were planning on renting out our Kauaii timeshare next year - I'll have to check out the Swap market :lildevl:

04-03-2006, 06:03 AM

04-03-2006, 06:59 AM
This morning I have severe poon withdrawl symptoms! I need a fix badly :)

I can't get the lunging acrobatics of these things out of my mind!!!! I could see myself falling into a deep abyss of mid-size tarpon obsession very easily.

Although these are called "baby" tarpon I have to say they are the right size for me. I am not really interested in chasing a 100 pounder around for an hour. These fish ran from around 20 pounds to 50, and with mullet in the lagoon in large numbers I am sure there were much bigger ones who did not bother with the shoreline buffet.

I forget to mention I did have one snook take the fly but I pulled the hook from it's fleshy mouth. I did mention that I had twice as many heart stopping takes as I had jumped fish, and some of them swiped two or three times before getting the fly but no solid hookup occurred.

They were HOT on a shrimp pattern I invented for steelheading, the winter version of the 'creeper' which is a fairly large winter steelhead pattern with orange indian crow shell backs and mallard horns for legs, pink crystal flash for antennae. I can't post a pic because they are all on tarpon lips (I ran out). This TMC 7999 barbless was not the right hook for the job but I am sure they will expell them easily if not already.

Because of the breakage rate of super-hot tarpon in this size range I would avoid using stainless hooks.

I have seen the use of circle hooks which I think would work well since tarpon often take and follow thru in an "away" direction when they take, but man I could see myself blaming the hook for less hookups even though I know even a standard large gape hook mysteriously doesn't stick as often as it does.

After the winter creeper I went to a small tan clouser I tie for July days on Monomoy and they liked that too albeit not as much as the shrimp. More swipes, less fish hooked with the clouser for some reason. I think part of it was the profile of the unweighted shrimp sinking at a near ideal rate unlike the quick descent of the clouser and possibly the orange color that make them go nuts on it.

Finally I had a raghead crab pattern I tied for Acklins with extra long brown grizzly hackle legs that looked too ugly for fishing on the flats but when stripped it looked a lot like a toad and they seemed to like that one as well.

The most important thing was to set up en route and place the fly correctly so it was an easy lunge for them, and lunge is the word. Some of the takes were so vicious you would swear you spooked the fish until the rod nearly jumped out of the hands and a 40 inch tarpon would explode 5 feet in the air.

There are several lagoons to investigate and spending only a couple of hours on a few within walking distance from the hotel does not make me an expert by any means but here's something you should all know...

There is a HUGE salt pond on the 'tail' of the island that is currently not flushing to sea enough for navigation etc. Within two years there will be a major waterway cut to the sea to open this huge basin to large watercraft for moorage and open it to tourism.

This will transform this salt lake into a fishing mecca and it's shoreline is broadly accessible and also rich with flats as well as other shoreline profiles and should provide an insane opportunity for visiting anglers DIY, tarpon, bones, permit, cuda, the possibilities are endless. Boat rentals should be an easy venture for locals on the calm lake, making the shoreline sight fishing opportunities hot.

I think I will follow this activity and plan to do a make-up trip with my once completed. ;)

04-03-2006, 07:40 AM
Great fishing report.... but very happy that you wife is ok and that she responded well to treatment...talk to you later

04-03-2006, 08:28 AM

Years ago I heard rumors of the Tarpon in a lagoon there.
A fellow told me the tourists would throw them French Fries !!! That would be an interesting fly pattern ! I don't know if he is on this site...his story was funny!

I feel the same way that you do about Tarpon. I would much rather hook the smaller ones.... the big ones are too much like work.

As you saw in another poster's comments, I had good luck on St Maarten with baby Tarpon. They seemed to like most any fly I threw at them but mostly white deceivers. It was in a congested area though and not very scenic.

Was the St.Kitts lagoon in a nice area ?

ps... really glad that your wife came through her ordeal ok.... that must have been frightening...

04-03-2006, 09:29 AM
... and the sounds they make as they churn the water are still sounding in my head...

in such skinny water every sudden move they make with that huge tail and body built for speed is like a burst of fury, and few leapers can rival the leaps of a tarpon. Not only do the surges and churning takes generate water noise but the vaulting of the fish's mass and shearing fins, head shaking and body gyrations create sounds that slice the air with excitement.

Atlantic salmon, summer steelhead, ocean coho salmon maybe but not with the explosiveness, sheer mass and toenail curling spectacle that a chrome-plated silver tropical sportscar of a fish can muster at it's command.

I love my stripers, inshore tuna and blues but tarpon they are not. I am obsessed with bonefishing but the double digit bones are few and far between. Steelhead and salmon via Spey fishing techniques will always be up there with fine single malts, soaring bald eagles overhead and the classic angling experience - but put a cubano in the pocket and throw a few limes and fine tequila in the cooler and put me on some 30 # tarpon quick before I go out of my mind with tarpon fever! ;)

04-03-2006, 11:04 AM
Off my digital camera... footage from the video will follow later as time allows.


(approx 1.7 mb / video + sound)

Bad case of the "dropsies" and it's hard to take footage / photos while fish are going nutso on the line, doesn't do justice :)

04-03-2006, 11:23 AM
Juro, glad to hear your wife is ok. She had the right person at her side! Also, thanks for the great fish report

04-03-2006, 11:28 AM
YEAHHH HAA!!!! I knew you would find em! I quickly found out 20lb tippet was not going to work as well.. their mouths are rougher than concrete just slowly fray your tippet. You need at least 30lb fluro, 40 be perfect. They do jump like crazy, great practice for the big daddys (someday, (sigh)). Glad you had a ball, I've been going through withdrawls since I've left St. Kitts. There is some big daddys in there. Amazing how shallow they swim for their size. They truly sneak up on you, then you get buck fever knowing that it is all up to you to present the fly properly.

Your report brought a big smile to my face, and made my Monday go by faster. Freaking AWESOME

:D :biggrin: Catch ya later work calls

04-03-2006, 12:40 PM
Nice use of the 3rd hand, not sure how you got any video. Great stuff!
but put a cubano in the pocket and throw a few limes and fine tequila in the cooler and put me on some 30 # tarpon quick before I go out of my mind with tarpon fever!
I hear ya man - just make sure it's Patron. I'd send 'em a sponsor solicitation but my Espanol is rusty:hihi: The SBFT swim faster but lack the aerobatic qualities of the tarpon.

Do I hear Tarpon Clave?

04-03-2006, 01:00 PM
GREAT REPORT and video:)

The babies in Saint Martin (45 MINUTES FROM ST KITTS) are also caught in the Salpond Lagoon in Philipsburg. The one I posted the other day too.

Here we fish them with 10wt outfit + 40lb Seaguar Fluoro (minimum:hihi: ), the water being murky, they are not leader shy.

The flies that work in our lagoon are :

Tan Shrimp tied with red/orange thread, Black and Purple Deceivers with Red Head, and Large Green/Yellow poppers (the FFSW frogg would work too)

Hook sizes 1/0 to 3/0 (the best). I use Varivas Carbon or Mustad 34007.

Been to antigua 3 months ago, and the lagoons are filled up too.


Jean Marc

04-03-2006, 01:41 PM

I found Antigua Tarpon fishing to be hit or miss... not like SXM where I found them every time.

Someone on Antigua told me the Tarpon and Snook fishing there is tied to the rains.... no rain and the lagoons go low and the fish die off....

Were you there recently ? Did I understand you to mean that there are Tarpon in the lagoons now ?

thanks for any info...

how much fun would it be to fish a flat with baby Tarpon approaching you like a bonefish !!!!

04-03-2006, 01:51 PM
Frank, sounds like you've had some of dat' tarpon action in that neck of the woods too! Great stuff. Addictive.

Although not in the types of waves we saw in Acklins these fish cruise so shallow they might as well be bones... well I will transfer some clips from my video camera to show you when I get out of work.

I have some raffle prizes from the show to ship out first, then I will get some mini clips of these cruising bruisers - being ten times bigger than the bones and cruising in the very shallows was just something else and I caught some ridiculous footage on the 3 CCD camcorder including a couple of leaps from another hooked tarpon.

04-03-2006, 03:28 PM
Do I hear Tarpon Clave?

Jim -

A friday night to sunday night r/t to San Juan Puerto Rico is $399 and the lodging for a few hearty anglers should be very cheap. Good eats are easy to find and the lagoon systems in the area abound with tarpon.

Somewhere in FLA, we could check with Kristen Mustad (Old Florida) on the situation, or with Ben Iannotta (bigfishonfly charters) etc. As I understand it the tarpon fishing is busy and seasonal in FLA though. I would rather go with the less traveled yet prolific populations.

Third weekend in April works for me... or early May before the stripers arrive... any potential takers?

Check out this map of San Juan's extensive canal systems...


San Juan is known as a tarpon hotspot and PR is USA.

04-03-2006, 03:54 PM

I found Antigua Tarpon fishing to be hit or miss... not like SXM where I found them every time.

Someone on Antigua told me the Tarpon and Snook fishing there is tied to the rains.... no rain and the lagoons go low and the fish die off....

Were you there recently ? Did I understand you to mean that there are Tarpon in the lagoons now ?

thanks for any info...

how much fun would it be to fish a flat with baby Tarpon approaching you like a bonefish !!!!

Well, antigua works like many lagoons (wether closed or opened to the ocean) in the caribbean regarding tarpon behavior.

My own experience is early in the morning before the sun rises above the hills, and late afternoon after the sun starts to hide behind the same hills, and before, during, after showers and any day in between that is really cloudy. That is for the dry season, when the water levels are low. Starting August untill December, it rains every night so the fish is active pretty much all day.

I was in antigua for quick 2 days business in late december, went to fish twice a day for 2 days. It was a blast.

One thing I would insist upon all guys taking a chance at a Tarpon:


I strip with the rod tip in the water, and during the fight, never go above 25 degrees angle. Once I could change my habits, and left enough time for the fish to turn around, I got better results.

I know that when we are used to fish for trout or bonefish we tend to rise the rod high above the water, and for a good reason, but after a while you can change it and adapt to specific fish/technic.


Jean Marc

04-03-2006, 04:58 PM

Good advice, Jean Marc - also don't try to get pictures of the leap with one hand on the rod, bring a friend to take pictures! :tongue:

04-03-2006, 05:52 PM
Thank you for all the information on baby Tarpon....

And your methods and times for fishing.... helps me a lot..

04-03-2006, 06:21 PM
WOW! That's the biggest hickory shad I've ever seen! :lildevl:

Awesome report! I saw a tv show about catching baby tarpon but they were about 2' long (a little closer to shad size :hihi: ) and even that made me want to try it. Those 20-50# fish must be amazing . . .


04-03-2006, 06:38 PM
Good advice, Jean Marc - also don't try to get pictures of the leap with one hand on the rod, bring a friend to take pictures! :tongue:

Ah Ah Ah, it is so true:chuckle:

The first time I tried, I lost the fish and almost lost the camera, this is why I now keep the camera on and wait after the first run and jumps, to attempt shooting anything.

My trick is : While the fish is taking less line and start to swim sideways, I bring the camera up in front of me in the supposed fish's direction and give 2 quick pulls sideways opposite to the fish with my rod hand. 9 out of 10, the fish gets pissed off and jumps. The camera is on Rapid Fire/Sport mode, and within 10 pictures, I have a chance of a nice one. (Like the one I posted last week):)

Tight Lines

Jean Marc

04-03-2006, 07:10 PM
Wow! This is exactly the type of fishing I'd like to experience some day. Tarpon in the 10 - 30 pounds range seem ideal for action and excitment.



12-08-2006, 03:08 AM
dont know if you will get this -but i will be in antigua for 10 days in early January 2007and want to fly fish from the shore.
I am used to catching salmon in scotland and stalking wild browns on a dry fly -need a quick list of tackle for Tarpon and is it necessary to have a guide?
My wife is happy to let me go for the 'odd morning' ...is it likely that I will return?!
Nick (Northumberland England)

12-08-2006, 06:19 AM
I haven't any first hand there but researched for a potential romantic visit once. I hear there is a guide Phil (Phils eco adventures) who does shore and boat trips with good knowledge. He seems to know his stuff from testimonials.

'Baby' tarpon in virtually all of the dark water lagoons as is common in these regions. Larger tarpon on the NW side (e.g. McKinnons Lagoon)

Bonefish at Carlisle bay shoreline shoals and permit nearby but not coral flats (read: lots of break offs). Oceanic bones reported to 14# though.

Mornings best for tarpon in lagoons anyway. Bring at least an 8 or 9wt and a reel with a *very* good drag. I think I will bring a 10wt 4pc next time, some of the fish I hooked in the lagoons went 60# and I had nearly zero chance of bringing them to shore.

Poons are anything but leader shy in this colored water so just run some 'rope' from the fly line. I try to use a tippet that will fit thru the eye of the fly or tying the fly becomes difficult. ;)

Just choose a fly with some motion and appeal as a snack, I had the best luck with a 3" orange winter steelhead shrimp pattern they really liked. If they reject it keep trying stuff but it's not likely they will be picky, just very difficult to land.

Get out there early but make sure you have your morning constitutional before you fish the first time out as the first wild 30# tarpon will surely have you sh*t your pants ;)